When the Feds swoop down and cuff racketeers, they also load the vans with all the perpetrators’ ill-gotten gains: stacks of cash, BMWs, whatever. The villains’ associates have to cough up the goodies too: lady friends must give up their diamond rocks.
Under the US’s Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, even before a verdict, anything bought with the proceeds of crime goes into the public treasury. But there seems to be special treatment afforded those who benefited from the crimes of former Enron chairman Kenneth Lay.
If the G-men don’t know where the tainted loot is cached, try this address: 1,600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Ask for George or Dick. Lay and his Enron team are the number-one political career donors to George W Bush. Lay and his wife, with no money to pay back bilked creditors, still managed to personally put up $100,000 for Bush’s inaugural ball, plus $793,110 for personal donations to Republicans. And Lay’s corporate team dropped $4.2m into the party that let Enron party.
OK now, Mr President, give it back – the millions stuffed in the pockets of the Republican campaign kitty stolen from Enron retirees. And what else did Lay buy with the money stolen from California electricity customers? Answer: the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Just before Bush moved to Washington, Kenny Boy handed his hand-picked president-to-be the name of the man he wanted as chairman of the commission that was later charged with investigating Enron’s thievery. In a heartbeat, Bush appointed Kenny Boy’s boy: Pat Wood. Think about that: the criminal gets to pick the police chief. Well, Mr President, give it back.
Dump Wood and end the ‘decriminalisation’ of electricity price-gouging that you and Cheney and Wood laughably call ‘deregulation’. Give back the government that Lay bought with crime cash. And while we’re gathering up the ill-gotten loot, let’s stop by Brother Jeb’s. The governor of Florida picked up a cool $2m from a Houston fundraiser at the home of Enron’s former president long after the company went bankrupt. Enron, not incidentally, obtained half a billion of Florida state pension money – money that has now disappeared down the Enron rat-hole.
And Mr Vice-President, don’t you also have something to give back? In secret meetings in your bunker, prior to and after Bush’s inauguration, you let Lay and his cohorts secretly draft the US’s national energy plan – taking a short break to eye oilfield maps of Iraq. Let us remember that the president’s sticky-fingered brothers Neil and Marvin were also on Enron’s payroll, hired to sell pipelines to the Saudis. The Saudis didn’t bite, but maybe a captive Iraq would be more pliant.
So, Mr Law-and-Order President, please follow the law and give up the energy plan that Lay bought with other people’s money. When I worked as a racketeering investigator for government, nothing was spared, including houses bought with purloined loot. Let there be no exception here. It’s time to tape up the White House gate and hang the sign saying ‘crime scene… property to be confiscated… vacate premises immediately’.
Awarding-winning investigative reporter Greg Palast is the author of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: an investigative reporter exposes the truth about globalization, corporate cons and high finance fraudsters (Constable and Robinson). Visit www.GregPalast.com
This article first appeared in the Ecologist September 2004